The basketball season should take on a more serious and intense tone this weekend as both the Juneau-Douglas High School boys and girls basketball teams will take on Ketchikan.
Last year, both the Crimson Bears boys and girls beat the Kings in the Southeast Conference finals to secure spots in the state tournament.
This season figures to be no different as the Ketchikan boys and girls are enjoying hot starts to the season.
The Juneau-Douglas girls (8-6) are coming off a big win over No. 2 Colony in double overtime Sunday.
Coach Lesslie Knight's team may be young, but the Crimson Bears showed guts by going toe-to-toe with the more experienced Knights.
Freshman Karli Brakes showed she's unafraid to take a big shot by making two field goals in the second overtime on Sunday.
Sophomores Mahlet Tingley and Brittany Fenumiai both can score and set up teammates while junior Kayla Harrison and senior Nicole Fenumiai bring knowledge and intensity.
A key for Juneau-Douglas all season has been its defense. The Crimson Bears are 8-0 when they hold opponents to 44 points or less.
Meanwhile, Ketchikan also boasts plenty of youth with eight sophomores, one junior and one senior on its roster.
Last year, coach Melissa Johnson's team played JDHS tight last year by employing a consistently aggressive defense.
Sophomore point guard Laci Effenberger, along with Kathleen Reno, Alexis Edwardson and Kalli Kline, are intense players whom JDHS shouldn't overlook.
On the boys side, much of the buzz statewide has surrounded the Kings' talented 6-foot-9 senior Damen Bell-Holter. The senior originally from Hydaburg will play NCAA Division I basketball at Missouri State next season and has lit up everyone he's gone against this season.
He dropped 27 and 23 points in two wins over defending state champions Wasilla.
Bell-Holter also earned MVP honors in the Golden Heart tournament in Fairbanks after he averaged 26.3 points in wins over Bethel, Lathrop and North Pole.
Bell-Holter can score both inside and outside and must be accounted for at all times. He's also a solid rebounder.
In addition to the college-bound senior, Jace Scudero and Simeon Schum can also score with regularity while Gunnar Farstad, Kevin Manabat and Erik Pihl bring experience.
Six of the Kings' wins came against Class 3A competition and they've yet to play a top-five Class 4A opponent. Juneau-Douglas represents Kayhi's toughest challenge to date.
The Crimson Bears are coming off a pair of losses to Colony, including a gut-wrenching 53-47 defeat Sunday in which JDHS squandered a 12-point fourth quarter lead.
Juneau has lost six of its last seven games, but has played arguably the toughest schedule in Alaska. Four of Juneau's eight defeats came against Class 4A teams ranked in the top five and another one came against the No. 3 Class 3A team, Heritage Christian.
Offensively, Juneau-Douglas enjoys a diverse attack. Slashing guard Dominique Brinson leads the team with 13.4 points per game while forward Ryan "Bubba" Larson ranks third in scoring with 11.5 points per outing.
Juneau's most consistent player may be forward Eric Gross. He's posted 12 points and six rebounds per game.
Coach Steve Potter's team played well in stretches, but struggled to start quickly and finish strong.
If Juneau can show the poise to play its best in the first and last four minutes against the Kings, the Bears may put themselves in the driver's seat for a top-seed in the Southeast Region Tournament.
Contact sports editor Tim Nichols at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
JDHS boys basketball
What: JDHS (6-8) at No. 2 Ketchikan (14-1).
When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: Clarke Cochrane Gym in Ketchikan.
What's at stake: Juneau-Douglas holds a nine-game winning streak against the Kings. Ketchikan is 7-1 against Class 4A competition this season.
JDHS girls basketball
What: Ketchikan (10-4) at JDHS (8-6).
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Where: JDHS gym.
What's at stake: With both teams already owning two wins over Sitka, this weekend represents a big step for either squad hoping to claim a first-round bye in the Southeast Region Tournament.